Thursday, May 01, 2008

The funeral

My husband's funeral was beautiful. My pastor and my mother-in-law's pastor both spoke, and along with the flood of tears came the goosebumps of consciously experiencing grace. There are some funeral services that come across as fill in the blanks templates. This was a rich evocation of a deep, complex, loving, funny, sometimes infuriating, and unique character. My brother-in-law asked Bro. J. to say three things he wanted to tell his brother. When I heard them, my lack of composure went to the next level. What he said was, "Thank you. I'm proud of you. I love you." I know how much this would have meant to my husband.

My husband was a deeply spiritual but not a religious man, and religious hymns would not have been appropriate at his funeral. We wanted music that reflected him. My daughter picked a Journey song that he (we) loved, that ultimate cheesefest, Open Arms. For once, it didn't sound over the top as it opened the service today. As well as being "our" song when we were first dating, it described how R. greeted the world. His mother remembered how much he loved Jim Croce when he was younger, so we added Time In A Bottle. R. loved good country music, not the country pop that dominates the Nashville sound today, and I chose Vince Gill's Go Rest High on That Mountain. Its lyrics of a short, sometimes painful life seemed just perfect.

Today's weather defined spring in the south. It was softly warm with what I think of as a Rene' Magritte sky, that ideal shade of blue with perfect puffy clouds. There was a wonderful breeze, and as we walked through the cemetery, the leaves of these huge old trees were fluttering. His grave site is on a gently sloping hill next to his grandparents. It's where he wanted to be.

The pall bearers got to me. Most of them had known R. since childhood. I came to know most of them when they had 80s hair, drove too fast and partied a touch too hard. My husband ran lights and sounds for a band back in our youth. He and the lead guitarist got into more mischief than I would ever tell. We've kept in touch over the years, but it's been awhile, and it's still hard to see him as he is now, the intense, working regular 60+ hour weeks head of IT for a large manufacturing plant. Despite being a truly devoted husband and father, I'll always see him as that musician and ladies man. That makes his strong marriage and family life more endearing to me. R.'s childhood next door neighbor is completely silver headed now, but like R., his face barely has a line on it. These guys were babies together, climbed countless trees as boys, and got multiple speeding tickets together as teens, and he couldn't stop crying. The high school stoner buddy and fellow genealogy buff has the dignity appropriate to his position of history professor. A., another teen buddy, broke my heart. His life has been entirely too hard, marked by illness and family deaths in the last few years. I knew that yesterday he had to get his regular bi-weekly pain shot and that his blood pressure had been veering dangerously high. He didn't need to be lifting anything but wouldn't bow out and accept the role of honorary pall bearer. B. was the next, husband of S #2. They developed a friendship dealing with their crazy wives. Both are so gentle and quietly strong, and they've had a lot of fun laughing at us over the years and indulgently letting us laugh at them. T., S #1's husband, had known R. since college. We were in their wedding. We've watched our children grow up. We've lost parents and step parents. They were there at the beginning of R.'s and my relationship, and they were here at this ending. It's been painful for all of us, but damn, it's good to see how many people loved my husband. (Especially, when he's been so misunderstood these last few years. I don't know who understood less, his friends, himself or me.)

No funeral is complete without food, certainly not a southern funeral. The church ladies at my mother-in-law's church fixed a spread for us that left me cursing control top pantyhose. Then we had to go back to the funeral home to pick up the flower arrangements meant for us to take home. My friends once again were there for me, and I didn't have to go back in there. When I got home, my dining room and living room were filled with flowers. From what I've been told my mother-in-law's house was too. My sister had tried to send a spray, but this morning, she received a call from her florist. Apparently my town ran out of flowers today, and no florist here could fill her order. Later today, a florist delivery van pulled into my driveway with gorgeous arrangement from Lisa of Coming to Terms. I noticed that the van came from the next small town down the road.

My friends stayed with me awhile, and I was grateful for their company and grateful when they left. It felt good to be home with just the womanchild and her boyfriend whose presence in the house feels as natural as the cats. Sometime tonight, I laid down on the couch and sleep just took me. Hours later, thoughts woke me, demanding to be sorted out, so here I came.

I don't know why I'm writing about all of this here. It's much more appropriate for my personal handwritten journal, but fuck propriety. This is part of life. It just really sucks right now, but it's beautiful in a way too. If I learned anything from my husband, it was to just be who you are. The people who matter connect to what is real.


Blogger Donna said...

I'm speechless. This is so well-written.

May 01, 2008 6:04 AM  
Blogger Jod{i} said...

sending you my love and hugs Cyn.

May 01, 2008 6:41 AM  
Blogger Gannet Girl said...

Cynthia, I am SO glad that you were all able to put together a service the reflected your husband's life so beautifully.

I have known for a long time what an extraordinary person you are, but you are giving us some insight into one of the main reason why: you are surrounded by extraordinary people every day.

May 01, 2008 7:08 AM  
Blogger Teri said...

It sounds like this was as good an experience with a hard funeral as could be hoped for. I'm so glad. Reading your stories the last few days has brought back my own grieving times and my own grace times--thank you for that.

And I'm with you: fuck propriety. It's dumb. I love that you are willing to grieve in community the way human beings are supposed to. I wish more of us would do what you are doing.

May 01, 2008 8:07 AM  
Blogger Lisa :-] said...

I'm so glad you had beautiful weather for the funeral. And glad that it was an appropriate celebration of R's life. That's so important...

Sending another virtual hug (though you probably feel like you've just about had the stuffing hugged out of you in the past few days...)

May 01, 2008 10:19 AM  
Blogger Songbird said...

Amen to that last paragraph. Your honesty is a gift.

May 01, 2008 2:26 PM  
Blogger IndigoSunMoon said...

I'm glad the funeral was beautiful. I think the music choices were excellent. Sad Church music is something I hate. These songs brought a lump to your throat I'm sure, but they also put a smile in your heart, and thats all that is important.
I'm here for we all are dear Cynthia.
Much love,

May 01, 2008 10:55 PM  
Blogger Theresa Williams said...

Sigh. That's all. xxxoxoxooxo

May 02, 2008 12:05 AM  
Blogger Judith HeartSong said...

it is beautiful.

May 02, 2008 7:24 AM  
Blogger Christina K. Brown said...

because I don't get to get on very much anymore I just read this....


that is all I can possibly do.

May 02, 2008 3:15 PM  
Blogger emmapeelDallas said...

"The people who matter connect to what is real"...Yes. Beautifully written.

You're in my thoughts.


May 04, 2008 12:51 AM  
Blogger Nelle said...

I just found some time to do some journal reading today and was shocked to hear of your loss. I am so deeply sorry for you and your C having to go through this. If I had your snail mail addy I would send a card but I don't. My life has been quite chaotic lately with a stressful job, changing to four day work week with ten hour days, my father's diagnosis of cancer and my husband's worksite closing this year. Please know you will be in my thoughts and prayers. I cannot imagine dying so suddenly at 48. I deeply admire your organ donations from your loved one. Take good care Cynthia and I pray that the good memories will comfort you, as well as your faith.

May 04, 2008 6:39 PM  

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